Scotland’s first minister has said transgender women will be protected under any new misogyny laws.

Humza Yousaf insisted that “anyone affected” by misogyny would be covered, whatever their biological sex.

He also insisted the Scottish government would not spend an “inordinate” amount of time deciding whether to follow the recommendations of the recent Cass Review into gender care.

The Scottish government wants to introduce a bill to tackle misogyny before the end of the current parliamentary term in 2026, following a review carried out by the human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy KC.

Women were not included in the recent Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 that was introduced on 1 April – a decision that Mr Yousaf said had followed discussions with a number of women’s groups.

When asked whether fresh legislation would cover transgender women, Mr Yousaf said that it would, as whoever was directing misogynistic abuse would be unaware if a woman was trans or not.

Separate law

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Women and girls will be protected, and trans women will be protected as well, as they will often be the ones who suffer threats of rape or threats of disfigurement for example.

“When a trans woman is walking down the street and a threat of rape is made against them, the man making the threat doesn’t know if they are a trans woman or a cis woman. They will make that threat because the perception of that person [is] as a woman.”

The first minister added that the bill would be proceeding with “urgency and pace”, due to the number of women who have “raised concerns” over sex not being covered within the recent hate crime bill.

Baroness Kennedy’s report had recommended the creation of a separate law to tackle “the spectrum of misogynistic conduct”, rather than including it in the hate crime law.

A government spokesperson previously said that a misogyny bill would “create a new focus on protecting women and girls to address criminal behaviour motivated purely by misogyny”.

The Cass review was released last week

Figures released by Police Scotland on Tuesday showed that the number of online hate reports dropped by almost 75% in the second week since the introduction of the new hate crime legislation.

There were 1,832 online hate reports received between 8 and 14 April, down from 7,152 the previous week.

The vast majority of reports received were anonymous, and resulted in no action being taken.

There were 213 hate crimes recorded in the same period, down from 240 the previous week, with officers also recording 25 non-crime hate incidents, five fewer than between the previous week.

During a ministerial statement in parliament on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Angela Constance said the government could have “done more” to inform people about the new law.

She said: “I accept that the Scottish government could have done more to inform people about this act as well as our wider approach to tackling hate crime and prejudice.

“However, let’s be clear even if the government had produced more information bad faith actors who are intent on spreading misinformation would have done so regardless.”

‘Not enough evidence’

Mr Yousaf also said that “all aspects” of the recent review by Dr Hilary Cass into NHS England’s gender identity services for under-18s would be considered by the Scottish government.

The review was released last week and found the evidence base for medical interventions in gender care for young people had been “remarkably weak” and that children had been let down by a “toxic” public discourse around gender.

Mr Yousaf did not rule out halting the routine prescription of puberty blockers – a move the NHS in England has already made after the Cass review stated there was “not enough evidence” for them.

He said: “Every recommendation that Dr Cass makes will be considered as part of that consideration of the entire report including the recommendations that she makes in relation to puberty blockers, and that is one element of the recommendations that Dr Cass makes.

“There’s a number of recommendations – all of them will be given consideration.”

However, the first minister said that the prescription of treatments should be one made by clinicians rather than politicians.

The Scottish government has come under pressure to scrap the use of puberty blockers, with SNP MP Joanna Cherry, Alba Party MSP Ash Regan and Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher calling for a review.

Dr Cass said last week that “we don’t have good evidence” that puberty blockers are safe to use to “arrest puberty”, adding that what started out as a clinical trial had been expanded to a wider group of young people before the results of that trial were available.

She said: “It is unusual for us to give a potentially life-changing treatment to young people and not know what happens to them in adulthood, and that’s been a particular problem that we haven’t had the follow-up into adulthood to know what the results of this are.”

The Tavistock Clinic in London – which offered gender services – was closed this year, but the first minister said Scotland’s hub at the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow would not suffer the same fate.

He said: “Sandyford provides, we know, some exceptional health care to some of those who are the most marginalised and vulnerable. Not just young people, but right across the spectrum.”

He added that the Scottish government would look into the possibility of opening more regional hubs and said that ministers “won’t be taking an inordinate amount of time to consider” the Cass review’s findings.

The Scottish Conservatives said the first minister was “stalling for time and passing the buck to clinicians”.

The party’s deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “It’s not good enough to say he and health boards need more time to look at Dr Cass’s report, and it’s an abdication of leadership not to pause the prescribing of puberty blockers in the interim.”

The Alba Party MSP Ash Regan said the first minister’s reference to cis women was “offensive”.

She added “Women are not a subclass of our sex. Trans-identifying people are protected under the Hate Crime and Public Order Act 2021, yet despite crime against women being a scourge in our society, women are not.”

The author JK Rowling, who has been an outspoken critic of the Hate Crime Act, said the first minister’s remarks showed “absolute contempt” for women.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, she said: “Women were excluded from his nonsensical hate crime law, now he introduces a ‘misogyny law’ designed to also protect men.”

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